Monthly Archives: December 2020

From EWS President Melanie Dawson: Looking Toward 2021

Looking Toward 2021 

As we prepare to say a hearty goodbye to 2020 and greet a new year, the Edith Wharton Society will welcome a new set of officers and take a moment to recognize those who have served through the end of the current year. As many of you know, our officers serve for two-year periods, during which they maintain the scholarly presence of the Edith Wharton’s work, oversee the Society’s finances and membership, and support conference planning, including plans for the 2020 conference and 2020 EWS awards. This year we are particularly grateful for our outgoing Members at Large, Rita Bode and Katie Ahern; we thank both for their service across the past two years.  We also wish to recognize the Herculean labors of Margaret J. Jessee and Meg Toth, known affectionately to many as “the Margarets,” the directors of our in-person conference originally slated for June of this past year in New York City.  Conference planning is not for the faint of heart even in ordinary times, but as our lives were rearranged in response to our ongoing public health crisis, Jay and Meg closed out all site-specific conference planning and transitioned to our first online Edith Wharton Society conference events. We owe them huge thanks for their resilient energies as they enabled our virtual conversations about Wharton’s work; our summer online events were without precedent and their success was most welcome. 

As we turn to 2021, Sheila Liming continues to helm our membership coordination, and Carole Shaffer Koros the Society’s archives; Donna Campbell remains Webmaster and Sharon Kim Treasurer; we are grateful to these members their vital work on behalf of the Society. At The Edith Wharton Review, Paul Ohler continues as Editor and Myrto Drizou and Sharon Kim as Associate Editors, with Shannon Brennan as Book Review Editor. All are deserving of our ongoing appreciation for the journal’s splendid presence. Those who step into new EWS positions at the beginning of 2021 include Meg Toth, Laura Rattray, and Virginia Ricard, who join the Executive Board as Members At Large.  Thanks to all three for enabling the society’s work.  Jay Jessee steps in as Secretary, Myrto Drizou as Vice President, and Jennifer Haytock as President.  I know that the Society will be in excellent hands with these talented stewards. Many of you will remember Jennifer as co-director of the 2016 conference in Washington, D. C. and as an active Vice-President these past two years.  Indeed, I have relied upon a close collaboration with Jennifer throughout my time in the Presidency, just as I have benefitted from the wisdom of Paul Ohler, who steps out of the role of Immediate Past President, and who deserves many thanks for his years as Secretary, Vice-President, and President. I should also note the dedication of a host of officers past and present (especially Emily Orlando, Meredith Goldsmith, and Gary Totten, additional presidents with whom I have worked across my time with the society) and to a society culture that fosters such collaborative goodwill among its members.  We hope you will continue to contribute to the Society’s ongoing discussions of Edith Wharton, her works, and her milieu.   


Melanie Dawson    

Edith Wharton in the News: The Age of Innocence in The New Yorker

“The Age of Innocence” at a Moment of Increased Appetite for Eating the Rich

By Hillary KellyDecember 26, 2020

Winona Rider and Daniel DayLewis riding in a carriage in The Age of Innocence.
The material excess is bait for readers who want to admire the trappings of wealth even as they root for the downfall of the wealthy.Photograph from Columbia Pictures / Photofest

When she began writing “The Age of Innocence,” in September, 1919, Edith Wharton needed a best-seller. The economic ravages of the First World War had cut her annual income by about sixty per cent. She’d recently bought and begun to renovate a country house, Pavillon Colombe, in Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, where she installed new black-and-white marble floors in the dining room, replaced a “humpy” lawn with seven acres of lavish gardens, built a water-lily pond, and expanded the potager, to name just a few additions. She was still paying rent at her apartment at 53 Rue de Varenne, in Paris—a grand flat festooned with carved-wood cherubs and ornate fireplaces. The costs added up.

Dr Paul Ohler on ‘Edith Wharton’s Early Short Stories’ Thursday 21 January 2021 (12 pm EST/ 5pm UK)

From Jennifer Haytock via wharton-l:

Edith Wharton’s Birthday Talk
Dr Paul Ohler on ‘Edith Wharton’s Early Short Stories’
Thursday 21 January 2021 (12 pm EST/ 5pm UK) 

A Joint Event with the Edith Wharton Society and the Transatlantic Literary Women 

To celebrate the week of Edith Wharton’s birthday, the Edith Wharton Society and the Transatlantic Literary Women are joining forces to hold a special talk with renowned Wharton scholar and editor, Dr Paul Ohler. Everyone’s invited!  

If you’re interested in Edith Wharton, short stories, late nineteenth/early twentieth century literature, publishing history, genre, then trust us: you will NOT want to miss Paul’s talk on Wharton’s often neglected early short stories! Please spread the word. 

In a well-known letter of 1902, Henry James admonished Edith Wharton to take up the “American subject [and] Do New York! The 1st-hand account is precious.” It was somewhat redundant advice, given that she had already published six short stories set in the city. In fact, Wharton had devoted immense energy to the genre for over a decade by the time of James’s letter, publishing her first story in 1891, when “Mrs. Manstey’s View” appeared in Scribner’s Magazine. By 1903 she had published thirty more, most of which remain little read. Focussing on “Mrs. Manstey’s View”, “The Duchess at Prayer”, and “A Cup of Cold Water”, this talk outlines Wharton’s work in the genre during the first phase of her career. Subjects will include the variety of characters and situations in Wharton’s stories, their range of geographical and historical settings, the array of modes—realist, naturalist, historical, dramatic, gothic—Wharton worked in, and the tonal variety of tales that rely on irony, parody, humor, pathos, and terror to achieve their effects. 

Paul Ohler teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. He is the author of Edith Wharton’s Evolutionary Conception: Darwinian Allegory in Her Major Novels (Routledge), and articles and book chapters on Wharton, including an essay in America’s Darwin: Darwinian Theory and U.S. Literary Culture (U of Georgia Press). His current projects include editing Volume 2, Short Stories I: 1891-1903 of The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, which is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant. His most recent essay, “Creative Process and Literary Form in Edith Wharton’s Archive” appears in The New Edith Wharton Studies edited by Jennifer Haytock and Laura Rattray (CUP 2020). He is editor of the Edith Wharton Review and past president of the Edith Wharton Society.  

If you’d like to join us, please email: and we’ll send you a secure Zoom link in the week of the event.